Clash of titans

Updated: Nov 20 2005, 06:57am hrs
The lush greens, the galloping horses, the noble horsemen, all exude royal brilliance in the November sun. Such is the charm of the Jaipur Polo grounds where the eleventh Maharaja Hari Singh Memorial Cup is being held. The tournament, which ends today, is one of the most prestigious 14-goal tournaments in India. The event is being sponsored by Amby Valley Sahara Lake City.

The tournament was introduced by Karan Singh and his son Yuvraj Vikramaditya Singh in 1995 to mark the birth centenary of Maharaja Hari Singh, who is regarded as one of the greatest patrons of the game.

The tournament has five teams competing in a half league format. The five teams are divided into two pools. Pool A includes last years defending champion Jindal Steel and Power, the Indian Army and the Indian Navy. Pool B comprises the Amby Valley Royal Kashmir team and Majaara.

The tournament has a high +14 handicap, with the highest individual handicap of Gerardo Mazzini from Argentina. Sameer Suhag, captain of the Jindal Steel and Power team, is next in the league with the countrys highest handicap of +6.

The Army team beat Jindal Steel and Power 13-9, while Majaara overcame Amby Valley Royal Kashmir team team 12-11. In todays finals, the Indian Army team takes on Majaara.

It was Jindal Steel and Power that beat the Indian Navy on the first day of the tournament. For the winners, Captain Samir Suhag and Simran Shergill scored three goals each, while the Englishman, Tarquin Southwell, managed a brace.

In a seesaw battle, it was Simran Shergill who scored the winning goal for the Jindals. The second day saw some brilliant shots by the Argentine who fired home five goals for Majaara, including one in the dying seconds of the game to enable Majaara draw their Pool B encounter against the Amby Valley Royal Kashmir team 9-9.

The third encounter was a one-man display, as Argentine Martin Ravina slammed in 10 goals for the Army, which routed the Indian Navy 15-6 in a one-sided Pool A encounter.

Though the royal charm of the game is quite evident with the presence of the likes of Tiger Pataudi, today polo is being garnished by a tinge of corporate flavour, with sponsors like Sahara, Crowne Plaza, YES Bank and Audi extending their support to the game.

Said UK Bose, president, Corporate Affairs, Sahara India Pariwar, Polo is an expensive sport, needing more participation and hence more sponsors. The main aim of Sahara through the event is to target the elite clientele for promoting Amby Valley.

He went on to add, However, we are going to make an effort to impart some seriousness to the game and shift its Page 3 status to that of a full-fledged sport. It is a leisure sport for the people who are watching the game, but in reality it is physically very challenging for the players.

Pataudi, who lost his father at the same grounds, shared a similar view. Not only is polo a very competitive sport, but it is also very dangerous. He added, It costs you much less than watching a cricket match!

Citing an example of polo fans, he said, I have seen people coming all the way from far away and camping here in the grounds for days to cheer their favourite team.